Jul 09, 2009

Water Scarcity Expected to Boost the Desalination Market

Focus on desalination especially highlighted in the Mediterranean region

Demand for fresh water is increasing around the world, especially in regions with rapidly growing populations and badly affected by long drought seasons. Water is only going to become scarcer and many governments are looking at desalination and investing in this technology to supply water to their populations. These factors are driving the desalination market, which shows strong growth according to Frost & Sullivan.

The focus is particularly high in the Mediterranean region, where in the last few years we have been witnessing an increasingly severe water scarcity. Frost & Sullivan has been looking at this sector with particular interest and will soon publish a comprehensive study on the Spanish water market with trends, challenges and opportunities.

Frost & Sullivan Analyst Nuno Oscar Branco, who has been researching the market and conducting extensive interviews with market participants, said, “Spain is the largest desalination market in the Mediterranean region, but countries such as Algeria, Morocco or Libya, to name just a few, have joined the desalination bandwagon and are investing heavily on this source of fresh drinking water.”

Spain built its first desalination plant in 1965 and was one of the first countries in the Mediterranean region to consider desalination as a viable solution to solve water shortage issues in large urban areas. “Spain is close to reaching the peak of its desalination programme and is on the forefront of the desalination markets, leading the way in employing new technologies and plant design,” said Branco.

Spurred by the PROGRAMA A.G.U.A., Spain has an estimated investment plan of about $5.5 billion for the period 2004 to 2015 in desalinization treatment plants.

At a time when the construction market is in trouble, investments by the Spanish Government in the water infrastructure is proving to be a good opportunity for EPC companies, construction companies, project engineering firms and technology providers.

“The Spanish desalination market still offers opportunities for local and international companies that have expertise especially in key areas of energy efficiency as well as process and operation optimization,” according to Branco. Desalination is looking at the opportunity of going green through renewable energy options. There are technologies already available that would use wind or offshore solar power units as an energy source for desalination.

The presence of Spanish companies is also very strong in other geographical markets: “Albeit the desalination market in Spain is at its peak,” Branco concluded, “Spanish companies have developed strong know-how in the construction and operation of large desalinization plants and are winning important contracts in Algeria, India and Australia.”

Drivers for investment in water desalination plants will continue to remain strong in the Mediterranean countries for the next decades.